Historical Context and Background

Winfield House stands on the prior site of St. Dustan’s Villa, originally named Hertford Villa, an Italianate style residence built in 1825 for Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, the third Marquess of Hertford. The home’s primary use was for entertainment.

The portico at the entrance to St. Dunstan’s Villa. Winfield House, James Mortimer, 2008.

Concerned about the safety and security of her young son, in 1935 American Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, toured the site of St. Dunstan’s Villa in the secluded Regent’s Park enclave. That year, and at the age of 23, Hutton acquired the expansive property.  On the 10th of August 1936, the Crown Estate Commission granted permission to Hutton and her husband to demolish St. Dunstan’s and replace it with a Neo-Georgian structure. Hutton bestowed the name Winfield House on the residence after her grandfather, Frank Winfield Woolworth. Construction of Winfield House took a total of fifteen months, and in January of 1938, the house was completed.

Proposed entrance for Winfield House designed by Wimperis, Simpson & Guthrie. Winfield House. James Mortimer, 2008.
Portrait of Barbara Hutton, Oil Painting

After damage to the house during World War II, in 1945, Hutton elected to donate the Winfield House to the United States Government, and in 1946 the house officially became the American Ambassador’s Residence to the Court of St. James’s.  From this point forward, various ambassadors occupied the residence and Winfield was altered to fit their needs and preferences.

The largest and most extensive renovation to take place was under Ambassador and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg. During this renovation, the iconic hand-painted Chinese Wallpaper, dating to the 18th-century, was installed on the walls of the Green Room, now known as the Garden Room.  The generosity of Ambassador and Mrs. Annenberg continued after they departed the house by the donation of funds to retain the public rooms as redesigned in 1969. As of today the house still remains largely the same as during the Annenberg’s tenure.

Walter H. Annenberg and Mrs. Annenberg. The New York Times, 2009.

Historical Photos Courtesy of The Winfield House Collection